South Park, the grand old man of politically incorrect comedy, has finally taken on the social justice warriors.
In the season premiere, released yesterday, a new character was introduced: “PC Principal.” Describing himself as someone who is “sick and tired of how minority groups are marginalised in today’s society,” the episode revolves around PC Principal’s sometimes violent quest to rid the school of problematic language. Like Dolores Umbridge with more testosterone, PC Principal spends his debut terrorising anyone who he suspects of misgendering trans people or disrespecting women and minorities — occasionally beating up students in the process.
The show takes aim at the most absurdly PC story of recent months — the lionizing of Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner. The plot revolves around Kyle’s refusal to agree that Jenner is a hero. “I thought we were all on board that Caitlyn Jenner is an amazing beautiful woman who had the exquisite bravery of a butterfly flying against the wind,” screams PC Principal, “and then this sh*t comes out of peoples’ mouths!”
Amusingly, PC Principal and his gang of accomplices are portrayed as a hybrid of social justice warrior and college frat jock. At one point, the parents of South Park’s kids go to a college bar where they are accosted by “PC bros” who threaten to “throw down” at the slightest suggestion that Jenner isn’t a “stunning beautiful woman.”
Soon, the PC bros start talking amongst themselves (“Sweet, you’re PC bro?” “Yeah, Arizona State.” Sweet bro, I’m PC U. Mass.” “Sweet dude.” “Sweet.”) and agree to set up a PC frat house under the leadership of PC Principal. (“No problematic language here bro!”) As a final test, pledges are told to “go outside and check someone’s privilege.”
Given that frat boys are the natural enemies of the social justice left on campus, it’s a creative bit of left-field humour. South Park cleverly questions whether the antics of the frat pack (at one point, the PC bros draw penises on Kyle’s face while he’s asleep) would be deemed acceptable if they were done in the name of progressive values.
Like some of the social justice warriors we’ve covered in the past, the PC bros take a hostile, even violently belligerent attitude to anyone who offends them. At one point, PC Principal beats Eric Cartman to within an inch of his life for using the word “spokesman” instead of “spokesperson.”
In fairness, even Shanley hasn’t gone that far. Yet.
South Park is fictional, but its satire is always grounded in current events. The treatment of Omar Mahmood, terrorised by PC students at the University of Michigan, is a reminder that the “PC bros” aren’t that far off from reality. Representing social justice warriors as frat boys actually comes across as quite accurate. In many ways, they are the new jocks, terrorising anyone who thinks or acts differently. In many ways, they’re just the stupid, meatheaded bullies of the past — they just wear dyed hair, thick-rimmed glasses, and plaid shirts these days.
Of course, there’s a limit to how far the show reflects reality. We’ve yet to see anything like the climax of the episode, where Cartman & co disrupt the PC frat house by luring a mob of pregnant Mexican women inside with tacos, and then setting loose a truck full of Syrian refugee children to be chased around the house by Jared Fogle.
As you might expect, the episode led to considerable hand-wringing from politically correct commentators. “It is a big deal when someone says ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ when talking about [Caitlyn] Jenner,” whined a writer at Bustle. The A.V club grumbled that South Park had been needling political correctness “for years” and that this episode was nothing new. More saltiness could be found on Twitter.
Parker & Stone slowly morphed into the Trump of TV comedy; angry older men getting attention by calling populist-rage "truth-telling."
— Bob Chipman #RehireJamesGunn (@the_moviebob) September 17, 2015
Because they called themselves out MASSIVELY on tonights @SouthPark, then invalidated it with the rest of the episode.
— Pecan Pie Coffin (any/all) (@petercoffin) September 17, 2015
That said, no one watching this episode with an objective mind can doubt that this is one of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s finest creations. Now in its 19th season, South Park retains its ability to be shocking, funny, and above all relevant. From the 9/11 truther movement to the language stormtroopers of trans acceptance, the show is relentless in its mockery of our collective manias.
There’s icing on the cake: not content with just one episode’s worth of SJW-inspired insanity, PC Principal is set to be a recurring character on the show. I suspect the show’s creators and I share the same opinion: social justice warriors are worth far more than just 20 minutes of comedy. They’re going to entertain us for years to come.